By Avenell Dave
Arsenal will face Barcelona in the knockout stages of the Champions League following the draw in Nyon this morning.
Given our record of two draws and three defeats against them in European competition, it’s probably the worst draw we could have had.
I bet most Addicts would have clamoured for Schalke given their lowly European status, despite the fact we won one and lost one against them in the 2001-02 Group Stage. Sadly, they drew Valencia and when Bayern Munich came out against Inter Milan, a Spanish team was guaranteed.
Who can forget Lionel Messi’s incredible performance against us last season, which he seems to have carried on (World Cup apart) this year.
Yesterday, Arsene Wenger spoke about Barcelona and there has been a lot of speculation that we would draw them again.
After the scintillating draw at our place, and then watching Nick Bendtner scoring a the Camp Nou, I can’t say it’s a draw I would have wanted.
They made almost 1,000 completed passes at the weekend, Lionel Messi is scoring goals at a phenomenal rate and seems to be unplayable and they’ve strengthened since last season by signing David Villa.
We can only hope that they are peaking now, Messi and a handful of others get food poisoning or Arsene Wenger decides, finally, to set his team up differently and not leave us there for the kill as we have done against better sides in the past.
Is it winnable?
Wenger will say, quite rightly, that no game is worth playing if you don’t believe you can win and I agree.
But Barca are favourites for a reason and knocking them out would be one of our greatest victories in recent years.
So get out the videos of their defeat against Inter last season, Arsene – it’s our only hope.
You know, one of the stupidest things I’ve been guilty of in recent weeks is telling friends who are getting married when I would or would not be able to make it based on the Champions League final.
Some of my Addict friends have even been suggesting that it’s written in the stars that we get to the final at our former Champions League home, Wembley.
I’m not so sure. You only have to look at our away form in Europe over the past two or three years to see why we struggle in the competition.
It’s a mystery that we can do so well away from home in the Premier League and so comparatively poorly and the complete opposite in Europe.
Much as people talk about this huge, infernal five year gap when we haven’t won a trophy, the REAL monkey on our back is the failure to win the Champions League or its predecessor, the European Cup.
Notwithstanding Liverpool and M*nure, the fact that Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa have won it underlines what a chasm it is in our trophy room.
Are we good enough to win it this season? I doubt it, but cup football is a funny thing, and with a bit of luck and a lot of grit, who knows, maybe a trip to Wembley in May is on the cards after all...